"Hi our names are G and A and we are brothers who want to say thankyou for the pajamas. We wear the pajamas every night and we like them a lot. And we go to the laundromat and clean them.
G and A"
Letters, like the one above, from a child will be incorporated into murals in our Children's Gallery when we open our new Pajama Program Reading Center in NYC. They are typical of the mail that comes to Pajama Program. We can't help but smile and feel good about what we're doing when notes like these arrive! These words definitely take the edge off when other notes, more difficult to swallow, come to us. I'm talking about the emails and letters from staff across the U.S. who share heartbreaking stories about the children they have in their custody and ask for more pajamas, more books.
"Many times, our children come to us with the clothes on their back and a teddy bear from the police, and have to sleep in hand me downs. They have been removed due to allegations of abuse, abandonment or neglect. We offer them a safe and secure environment, in stable and home-like houses."
Letters like that one catapult us into overdrive. They will be part of our mural too.
We scramble to share what we have at any given time. Sometimes we have to put out an SOS for more. Thankfully boxes of new pajamas and books show up soon after and there's more to go around. But it's never enough. We rely on the staff at more than 2,800 group homes and shelters and hundreds of children's advocates to distribute what we send. We keep in touch with them and encourage staff to call on us with updates on the children in their care and their needs.
When we pack up each box we never know who will wear the sweet mermaid nightgown or exciting spiderman pajamas or who will go to sleep holding a new, bright yellow Curious George book. A little girl wrote,
"My PJs have princess on them and my foster said I am pretty as a princess."
We used to assume the children put on their new nightclothes just before lying down for bed but we soon found out that because the pajamas are new and so soft, it is very often the only clean item of clothing a child has at the time our box arrives. Sadly, many times a child receives our gifts when he or she first arrives at a child protective services agency.
"She couldn't wait to wear her PJ's. She put them on in our office," wrote one social worker.
Perhaps this quote from the president of one of our Receiving Organizations should be front and center on our new wall:
"For a troubled child living in an institution far from home, it is the 'little things' that help calm fears and sadness. Sharing a quiet moment with a caring grown up, sharing a story with a happy ending, snuggling in cozy pajamas at the end of a long day."
Follow Genevieve Piturro on Twitter: www.twitter.com/Genevievepajama